A recent article on PwC blog gave detailed analysis on sickness absence and the effect it has on businesses. The research by PwC showed that sickness accounts for around 90% of UK companies’ absence bill which costs UK businesses £29bn a year. In terms of days taken off in a year due to sickness, UK workers take an average of 9.1 days compared to the US (4.9 days of sickness a year), Asia Pacific (2.2 days) and Western Europe (7.3 days). Research has shown that one of the reasons for sickness absences is stress. Research has also shown that a lot of workplace stress could be reduced if organizations focused more on the work environment and the context in which work tasks are executed. Excessive job demands and lack of independence are more strongly related to health and wellbeing than person characteristics.
According to John Harding, employment solutions partner at PwC in the North of England, “Absence is still a significant drain on British businesses. At a time when companies are striving for growth it is vital they address this cost by looking for ways to improve employees’ health, morale and motivation. Allowing greater workplace flexibility could go a long way to helping break the sickness cycle. Forward-looking companies will invest in health and wellbeing services to tackle the issue before absence starts to hit their bottom lines. This is particularly relevant for start-ups and SMEs, where the cost of absence can be particularly crippling. With the demographics of the workforce rapidly changing as many people are now having to work far longer before they retire, companies are likely to see a greater level of sickness if they don’t start addressing this issue now.”
Interventions need to be directed at tackling the problems of stress. Sweden and Canada have provided financial incentives for organisations to engage in stress prevention activities while in Scandinavia for example, job re-design and the improvement of working conditions has been central to the health strategies of many Scandinavian policymakers and organizations for many years. This is less prominent in other parts of Europe.
In the UK policymakers have relied upon organisational compliance with health and safety legislation as the motivator for investment in employee health. Health and wellbeing of your employees is good business as research has shown that investment in health and wellbeing programs has a positive benefit in reducing sickness absence, reduced staff turnover, reduced accidents and injuries, reduced resource allocation, increased employee satisfaction, greater productivity and a higher company profile. PwC is clearly using interventions which take account of employee needs rather than implementing ‘a one size fits all’ approach.
1. The Oxford handbook of organizatonal well-being